Tammy Marie Steffen
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
A Florida fitness trainer was sentenced to almost five years in prison for creating almost 400 fake Instagram accounts, using voice-disguising software and staging a kidnapping to harass and intimidate her former colleagues and associates.
Tammy Steffen, 37, was sentenced Friday to four years and nine months in federal prison for cyberstalking, harassing and making online interstate threats to six victims, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
Steffen harassed and intimidated the victims through repeated emails, phone calls, text messages and social media messages from various numbers and accounts from August 2016 through July 2018, according to the plea agreement.
During the investigation, the FBI says they identified at least 369 Instagram accounts and 18 email addresses Steffen used to harrass the victims — who live in Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan — and threatened them.
Some of the messages read “you will die by my hands,” and “I plan to slice you up into little pieces. Your blood shall I taste.”
She pleaded guilty in December 2018.
A search of Steffen’s home was conducted June 18. At the time, she agreed to an interview in which she admitted to having had personal and professional relationships with the victims and that she had used fake accounts to send disturbing messages, according to Steven Thames, FBI special agent.
Thames says Steffen trained women for fitness competititions in and outside of Florida and was a former teacher for Pinellas County Schools. Some of the victims were reportedly her competitors.
Each of the victims shared stories about other ways that Steffen sought to disrupt their lives, according to court records. In one instance, she used voice-disguising software and fake numbers to threaten one victim’s life. In another, she manipulated a victim’s business voicemail message to include “sounds of a sexual nature, including people moaning,” prosecutors said.
She also faked her 12-year-old daughter’s kidnapping to frame one of the victims — a man who used to be her former business partner when she worked at a Tampa gym — in July 2018, according to court and police records.
The “kidnapping” came a few days after Steffen reported finding a “headless doll on the front porch” of her home, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. It was later learned the planting of the doll was also staged.
The kidnapping scheme was an act of revenge against the man, her former business partner, who she believed sabotaged her chances of winning an online fitness competition, reports News Channel 8.
“The defendant’s actions and guidance of [name redacted] to provide false information to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, was a result of the defendant’s failure to provide care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s mental health,” reads the arrest report. “In a non-custodial interview the defendant admitted to making up the allegations, coaching [name redacted] and purchasing the items.”
Steffen’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Steffen will begin her 57-month sentence for the cyberstalking charges after serving just under a year in jail for the false kidnapping incident, according to the Washington Post, and wrote a letter to the judge apologizing for her actions.
“While no one wants to have legal proceedings,” she wrote, “I am thankful for the intervention in my life.”